AVSIM Commercial Simulator Review

Virtual Sailor 5 

Virtual Sailor 5

3 Stars

Rating Guide

Click for a bigger picture
Cruising in VeniceClick for a bigger picture
The Main Menu

Publisher: Ilan Papini
A unique sailing simulator, covering sailboats, submarines up to passenger liners.
Download Size:
4.7 Mb
Executable Auto Install File
Virtual Sailor 5
Reviewed by: Liam Coyle, AVSIM Library Reviewer

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with
5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

Please Note: A number of addon sceneries and boats were used during this review. I included them as they are freely available from the Virtual Sailor Homepage and they are the life blood of this sim and greatly add to its overall appeal.

Reader Survey

This survey is intended for those that have used this product or add-on. If you have used it, please let your fellow simulation enthusiasts know how you rate it by taking this survey. Please, if you have not used this product, do not take this poll (you can view the poll from the "Results" link below).

- Review Poll -
Have you tried Virtual Sailor 5?

I can live with it
Taking it off my system


If you aren't already aware, the man behind Virtual Sailor 5 is Ilan Papini, an aeronautical engineer with extensive experience both in aeronautics and in software development. He is also the individual responsible for Hangsim, which Wilco publishes, and Microflight. One wonders what will be next to spring from his mind.

Ehhh, I'm a FLIGHT simmer, not a sailor!

Oh, I know you are, and so am I, but variety is the spice of life. When I saw that Ilan had a new version of Virtual Sailor out I jumped at the chance to review it, updating an earlier Avsim review (see the December, 1999 review "Virtual Sailor 3" by Jeffry Babb).

I hadn't really thought much about the sim, other than the fact that I knew it existed, but I was so impressed with the quality of Hangsim and Microflight that I was eager to review this.

Virtual Sailor boasts the following features:

- Accurate Wave Dynamics
- Fully controllable weather and sea conditions
- Diverse and adjustable marine life
- Multiplayer capability
- Advanced features, but ease of operation
- Easy third party expandability

Rather a lot to claim, so does it live up to its claims and is it worth the $25 asking price?

If you go into the sim expecting a level of complexity such as FlightSim 2002, you're going to be disappointed. You have to remember that this is root level game development, something like it was in the early days. This is all thought of and created by one individual.

Test System

Custom PIII 550 MHz
Windows ME
256 Megs RAM
Geforce 2 MX 400 32MB
Sound Blaster Live Value
Logitech Wingman Digital 3D
17" Monitor (Unknown Make!)

Sailing Time:
30Hours over 21 days

Click for a bigger picture
The glare from the sun is excellent

Click for a bigger picture
An amphibious car

Click for a bigger picture
The wave effects in the sim are very impressive and realistic altogether

Click for a bigger picture
A cargo ship cutting through some rough seas

Click for a bigger picture
One of the better add-on sceneries, Baleares

Click for a bigger picture
The mighty Titanic, pulling out of port in England

Click for a bigger picture
The HMS Victory sailing into a rather pleasant sunset

Click for a bigger picture
Sailing the Caribbean

The Boats themselves

The detail of the boats is rather astounding considering the nature of development, and you do get quite a nice mix to start off with, some of which are a sailboat, a cruiser and a submarine. The models as stated are quite nice, with a good level of detail; the only real shortcoming they have is the texturing which isn't great, but it's acceptable.

What really makes this sim though is the incredible third party support for it; every day it seems as if there are new boats available. These are many and are freely available from the Virtual Sailor Homepage. The boats from previous versions of the game are also useable with the latest version—always good to see backward compatibility.


The default Aegean scenery with the sim is rather good; if you're familiar with Microflight, you'll immediately spot the similarities. It's rather exotic looking and boasts many rolling hills, occupied by small villages and lighthouses. As you sail around the coast you'll find many small inlets and harbours to explore and in which to drop anchor if things get rough.

Really the one thing that I dislike the most with the scenery—which is also the case with the third party material—is that the textures below the waterline are the same as those above. It's not a huge thing, but it does spoil it a little. One thing that I really liked was the various dolphins that criss-cross your boat as you sail the regions. It's small little touches like this that I appreciate.

As with the boats the third party support for scenery is very good, and there are many varied lands to choose from such as the Great Lakes of North America and Canada, the Straits of Gibraltar through to the Caribbean. They vary in download size from 1.05MB to 3.30MB.

Some of the scenery is done very well while others could be done better. There seems to be a trend among the designers for 2D buildings. This is a shame as Ilan has designed his own scenery in 3D, so it's not a limitation of the game.

Is it easy to get to grips with?

Things really couldn't be easier to follow in Virtual Sailor. There is an extensive HTML help file, which I recommend printing out to remember the keys. It's pretty hard to lose your way as everything is tweakable and changeable from very straight forward menus throughout the game.

Click for a bigger picture
In-game Options screen
Click for a bigger picture
Scenery Selection screen
Click for a bigger picture
Scenery Setting screen

The in-game options are very straight forward, done on a slide scale similar to FS2000. From here you can change such options as Visibility, Wave Size, Wind Strength and Time of Day, among many others. The scenery selection screen is again very easy to manage; you'd use this if you have any third party sceneries installed.

The scenery setting window is used after having changed sceneries. Sometimes you'll find yourself miles and miles from any land, so you can pick up your boat and drop it closer to where you want to be. A handy feature to see the sights quickly I can tell you.

To Summarize

Virtual Sailor 5 is a great achievement and makes a nice change from FlightSim. Easily for me at least the most impressive feature is the Wave Dynamics; they are very very good. They easily convey the sense of being on the ocean and being tossed up and down when things get a bit rough.

Some of the special effects need a mention too, such as the sunsets and the glare from the sun, when you're looking at it from under the water. The sound isn't bad, with a realistic gentle ocean sound, accompanied by seagulls flying over your head.

While I've not done it myself, the online play I'm reliably informed is a 'hoot'. Straight forward to setup and reliable. Those that I know enjoy trying to blow each other out of the water. Some of the boats in the game and several add-ons are kitted out with missiles that can be directed towards a target.

There are no huge downsides to the sim; my main gripe really being the texturing of the ships, which could be better and complement the very good ship models. Frame rates can occasionally be a bit slow; I think perhaps this is due to the rather large expanse of sea, land and sky that it renders. They aren't too bad and anything from a P3 upwards should do the job fine. Occasionally as you move the camera around the glare from the sun shines through solid objects, only a minor gripe though.

Click for a bigger picture
Default Aegean scenery
Click for a bigger picture
Cruising Venice
Click for a bigger picture
Click for a bigger picture
The Great Lakes

All in all Virtual Sailor is a fine achievement and well worth your investment—if for nothing else, just to sink your buddies' pride and joy. It's small and compact, loved by those who own it—just check out the Avsim Forum and the Virtual Sailor forum. It gets great support in add-on boats and sceneries, and Ilan is committed to improving the experience when he can. If an update is needed, one is issued.

It has its faults, but nothing too major. The quality points far outweigh the negative. It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with after this.

What I Like About Virtual Sailor 5
  • Excellent Wave Dynamics
  • The detail of the boat models
  • The lively third party add-on scene

What I Don't Like About Virtual Sailor 5
  • Boat textures could be better
  • Frame rates can occasionally be a bit rough


Tell A Friend About this Review!


Standard Disclaimer
The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

2001 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved


Click Here!